Brow Beat

You’re Doing It Wrong: The Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple in 1937

Photo by AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Former child star Shirley Temple Black died this week at the age of 85. In 2012, Troy Patterson wrote a tribute to Black and her eponymous virgin cocktail on the occasion of her birthday. Patterson’s article and unconventional recipe are reprinted below.

Like the authors of Hamlet and The Ginger Man, Shirley Temple entered the world on April 23. Eighty-four years ago in Santa Monica, this superlative juvenile crowned, cried, suckled, and, thus refreshed, began to sing and dance. She was shooting Baby Burlesks one-reelers at age three. Signing with Fox at five and three-quarters, she shortly sailed the Good Ship Lollipop. After retiring from film in 1950, she enjoyed a career in diplomacy that included a stint as Nixon’s woman at the UN. She now lives in Woodside as Shirley Temple Black after a 54-year marriage to her second husband, a war-hero zillionaire. She lives on as the darling dream of the last innocent child star, as the object distantly shimmering in The Bluest Eye, and especially as the namesake of the classic non-alcoholic mixed drink.


Most classically, the Shirley Temple involves a highball glass fizzing with ginger ale or lemon-line soda as graced with grenadine and maybe orange juice and topped by a cherry garnish or boat. The drink’s origins remain a matter of some historical argument—and the question of whether commercial bottlers can appropriate Temple’s name has been a matter of legal dispute—but smart money says that Chasen’s Restaurant in West Hollywood confected the potion for Little Miss Temple personally. And there is no arguing how very beloved this compound is—the epitome of pre-teen sophistication, savored at bar mitvahs and favored at special-occasion steakhouses.

(N.B. The close cousin of the Shirley Temple is the Roy Rogers. In fact, in some quarters, a Roy Rogers is just a Shirley Temple with some nomenclatural gender-reassignment surgery. But by the book, it’s made with Coca-Cola and is not at all bad as a breakfast drink. Try one while standing at the counter eating a toaster waffle with a bare hand.)


I hope herewith to help the Shirley Temple retain a high profile among 21st-century children and their elders. Won’t you join me? Start by splurging on cherries more succulent than the mealy maraschinos illuminating your closed fridge. Remember that grenadine syrup is easy to make, but if you haven’t got the will and are stuck with Rose’s, treat it as strictly decorative: You’ll be daubing your drink with a compound of corn syrup and red dye, so if you’re prepping a Shirley Temple for a discerning adult, use just enough to tint it quartz. Don’t worry so much about overdoing the Rose’s if you’re just making these for kids, whose palates are famously naive.


OK, the kids and the temperate sorts are squared away. Now, what about you? I gently propose that you’re doing your Shirley Temple wrong by neglecting to put alcohol in it. Over the years, many valiant attempts have been made to corrupt Shirley, to defile the Temple, to reformat this thing as as an adult beverage. Most notably, Saveur magazine proposes the “Lady Shirley,” a bourbon-based cooler with the look of a muddy rich iced tea. I suggest dialing down the lemon juice. I also recommend you print out the screenshot of the recipe juxtaposed with an advertisment for a home-pregnancy test, and use it as a memorable decorative garnish, not unlike a paper umbrella.


No? You’re not feeling it? Well, then try this Slate original.

The Superlative Juvenile
Yield: 1 serving
Time: Who’s counting?

2 ounces gin. Anything non-toxic will do, but I recommend Broker’s London Dry Gin (94 proof) for this one. The price is agreeable, and the stunt packaging finds the bottle cap wearing a tiny plastic bowler hat that the kids’ll love playing with. Double-check, but I think the hat is not so tiny that it poses a choking hazard to the children or, no less importantly, you.
1 ounce pomegranate liqueur. A bottle of Pama came into my hands, and we had a swell time. If you cannot track any down, do not succumb to the temptation to lay hands on whatever dust-greased bottle of Hiram Walker’s pomegranate schnapps might blight the premises, unless your palate favors the flamboyantly acrid.
Juice of ½ lemon
Ginger ale
Lemon twist
2 Marasca cherries

Stir the gin, pomegranate liqueur, and lemon juice with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled highball glass filled with ice. Top with ginger ale and a lemon twist. Garnish with one of the cherries. Reserve the other for a child, for motivational purposes, like a prize or a motivational carrot or some kind of behavioral hamster pellet.

Previously in You’re Doing It Wrong:
Lemon Bars
Brussels Sprouts
Macaroni and Cheese